Freedom Convoy Spreads Across the World, With Protests in the Most Unlikely Countries

The self-styled "Freedom Convoy," which started off as a protest by truckers in western Canada before descending on Ottawa in late January, has been spreading across the world with its anti-COVID restrictions and right-wing message resonating widely. Some of the protests have taken place in the most unlikely countries.

Thousands of truckers are protesting a vaccine mandate for the industry brought in by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, under which lorry drivers will have to be vaccinated to cross the Canadian-U.S. border.

The convoy—comprising big rigs and protesters—first arrived in the Canadian capital on the evening of January 28, clogging up the city's main streets and bringing it to a standstill. Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, has declared a state of emergency in the city and Trudeau has said the demonstrations have to stop.

But even with police cracking down on the protesters in Ottawa and limiting their access to fuel, international support for the truckers has been growing, with protests taking place from the U.K. and the Netherlands to the U.S. and New Zealand. As it has grown globally, the protest has become associated with the anti-vaccination movement.

CBS reported on Thursday that there will be a planned American "Freedom Convoy" of truckers opposed to vaccine mandates, which could involve a blockade of the Super Bowl in Los Angeles this weekend. The Department of Homeland Security has warned it could severely disrupt transport, as well as federal government and law enforcement.

Ahead of the sports event on Sunday, the DHS is adding extra personnel to help deal with protests, with more than 500 staff already providing air and maritime security resources, the news channel reported. Officials believe the convoy could head east, reaching Washington D.C. in time for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on March 1.

French motorists have been inspired by the protests in Canada. Six convoys have been organized across France so far, DW reported. In a bid to quell unrest, police in Paris on Thursday said they would ban the French version of the protests, prohibiting activists from holding demonstrations in the French capital from Friday until Monday.

The truckers set out from southern France on Wednesday, looking to descend on Paris and Brussels to demand an end to COVID restrictions. The mayor of Brussels also said that the city would ban the convoy.

Even in far-flung New Zealand, which has mainly been praised for its handling of the pandemic and hasn't managed to be divided by the virus in the same way as many other nations, supporters of the movement are taking to the streets to protest COVID restrictions.

In the city of Wellington, police on Thursday arrested more than 120 people protesting coronavirus restrictions after closing a Freedom Convoy camp outside of parliament.

Some of the movement's supporters have been accused of being involved in violence, racism and conspiracy theories. The Ottawa Police Service has condemned some of their actions as "extremely disruptive and unlawful behavior."

There have been similar movements in the U.K., with Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour party being harangued by crowd of conspiracy theorists in London on Monday evening, before being bundled into a police car to avoid violence.

Some of the people seen there were holding flags that indicated their support for the Canadian truckers.

France freedom convoy
A woman waves the French and Canadian flags as she takes part in the "Convoi de la Liberté" in Nice, southeastern France, on February 9, 2022. The self-styled “Freedom Convoy,” which started off as a truckers protest in West Canada, has been spreading across the world with its anti-COVID restrictions and right-wing message resonating widely. Valery Hache/Getty